Her revery was broken in upon by Dame Hartley’s voice crying cheerily,—
“And here we are, out of the woods at last! Cheer up, my pretty, and let me show you the first sight of the farm. It’s a pleasant, heartsome place, to my thinking.”
The trees opened left and right, stepping back and courtesying, like true gentlefolks as they are, with delicate leaf-draperies drooping low. The sun shone bright and hot on a bit of hard, glaring yellow road, and touched more quietly the roofs and chimneys of an old yellow farm-house standing at some distance from the road, with green rolling meadows on every side, and a great clump of trees mounting guard behind it. A low stone wall, with wild-roses nodding over it, ran along the roadside for some way, and midway in it was a trim, yellow-painted gate, which stood invitingly open, showing a neat drive-way, shaded on either side by graceful drooping elms. Old Nancy pricked up her ears and quickened her pace into a very respectable trot, as if she already smelt her oats. Dame Hartley shook her own comfortable shoulders and gave a little sigh of relief, for she too was tired, and glad to get home. But Hilda tightened her grasp on the handle of her dressing-bag, and closed her eyes with a slight shiver of dislike and dread. She would not look at this place. It was the hateful prison where she was to be shut up for three long, weary, dismal months. The sun might shine on it, the trees might wave, and the wild-roses open their slender pink buds; it would be nothing to her. She hated it, and nothing, nothing, nothing could ever make her feel differently. Ah! the fixed and immovable determination of fifteen,—does later life bring anything like it?
But now the wagon stopped, and Hilda must open her eyes, whether she would or no. In the porch, under the blossoming clematis, stood a tall, broad-shouldered man, dressed in rough homespun, who held out his great brown hand and said in a gruff, hearty voice,—
“Here ye be, eh? Thought ye was never comin’. And this is little miss, is it? Howdy, missy? Glad to see ye! Let me jump ye out over the wheel!”
But Hilda declined to be “jumped out;” and barely touching the proffered hand, sprang lightly to the ground.